The Squash Family – How to Grow Curcubits

Zucchini, squash, marrows, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons and gourds are all members of the Curcubitaceae, Squash or Gourd family. These fruits and vegetables are also known as ‘Curcubits’.

The Squash Family - How to Grow Curcubits

They are delicious tummy fillers and worth finding a space for in your garden.

When to Plant the Squash Family

All curcubits are sun worshippers and suit warm climate conditions. Unless you have a very cold climate, you should be able to grow some varieties of these fruits and vegetables. In cool climates sow in spring, summer and autumn.

If you’re in the subtropics, this family grows with the least problems in spring to early summer and autumn through winter. In tropical climates, they grow most of the year but thrive during the dry rather than wet season, when they are hardest hit by fungal problems.

Where to Plant Curcubits

Cucurbits are best suited to a full sun position with soil high in organic matter and good drainage. Most varieties of these vegetables require ample space in a garden bed, although a few suit large, deep containers.

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Organic Aphid Control with Hoverflies

Controlling aphids organically is much easier if you encourage natural predators like hoverflies to take up residence in your garden. One natural pest management strategy for organic aphid control is to make your garden attractive to predatory insects. These can help keep aphid numbers and other sap suckers in balance – no chemicals needed.

Organic Aphid Control with Hoverflies

 

The Hoverfly or Syrphid Fly (Diptera)

Also known as Flower Flies, hoverflies are members of the Syrphidae insect family. As their name suggests, adults often ‘hover’ like mini helicopters over nectar and pollen-rich flowers.

They lay their eggs near or in the middle of aphid colonies so when their babies hatch, dinner is served! Hoverfly larvae not only eat aphids but also soft bodied sap suckers like scale, mites, thrips and some small caterpillars. They are valuable predator insects to have in your garden as part of your organic pest management strategy. (more…)

Organic Fruit Fly Control Strategies

Fruit flies are one of the most destructive pest insects in home gardens and attack a wide range of fruit trees and fruiting crops. Many gardeners find they are the number one enemy they battle every year.

This pest insect is most active from spring through autumn and species vary in different locations. For vulnerable fruit, you need to be prepared to be vigilant and have controls in place at the right time. You really have to know your enemy to tackle it!

If you’ve experienced damage to your harvest, it can be disheartening to even try to grow your favourite fruit crop. What if managing this pest insect is all too difficult?

Organic Fruit Fly Control Strategies

If you don’t want to deal with fruit fly damage in your garden, you still have options:

1. Remove any host plants that are prone to attack.

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10 Top Tips to Create a Bee Friendly Garden

If you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, it’s likely bees have played a vital role in pollinating many of the foods on your plate! One way to help these threatened, tiny but hardworking insects, is to create a bee friendly garden. A magnet if you like, to lure them to spend more time hanging out at your place!

10 Tops Tips to Create a Bee Friendly Garden

If you have a garden, even a small one, you can encourage your local bees to visit regularly. Bees help fertilise up to 90% of the earth’s major food crops and you can support their health and survival, while reaping some awesome benefits.

4 Benefits of Attracting Bees to your Garden

An intentionally designed bee friendly garden:

1. Has a beautiful variety of perfumed colourful flowers that bloom continuously throughout the seasons. (A visual and sensory smorgasbord for you!)
2. Improves the quality, size and flavour of your fruits and vegetables. (A more delicious edible feast too!)
3. Increases the quantity of produce you harvest. (More food on your table)
4. Attracts beneficial insects that help reduce pests. (Less effort needed on pest management)

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13 Benefits of Growing Flowers in your Vegetable Garden

If you’re thinking you don’t need to bother with flowers in your vegetable garden, especially if you have a small space, you may be surprised with the many benefits they offer you.

13 benefits of growing flowers in your vegetable garden to improve pollination, reduce weeds + pests, get free fertiliser & plants

Flowers play multiple beneficial roles in EVERY garden, especially if you want an abundant harvest of fruit and vegetables. Did you know that with the right choices, you can increase your harvests, save money, reduce weeds and pests, get free fertiliser and plants, and much more? If not, dig in!

Powerful Reasons Why You Should Grow Flowers

Growing a food garden without flowers is an uphill battle. If you want fruit and vegetables, you need flowers too!

My compact kitchen garden has some flowering plants year round because I’ve designed it that way. So I’m going to share 13 compelling reasons why I think you should grow at least a few flowers in your vegetable garden.

1. Use as Companion Plants

Flowering companion plants are ‘friends’ with benefits! They offer neighbouring plants, or you as a gardener, some kind of useful ‘service.’ For example, tall flowering shrubs provide shade to sun-sensitive ground covers and strong smelling flowers may camouflage vulnerable crops nearby.

Flowering herbs are some of the best companions to grow in amongst your vegetables and fruit. Let’s just look at one example I mention in my Book, GUIDE TO USING KITCHEN HERBS FOR HEALTH:

“Chamomile has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and this may be one of the reasons it benefits other plants in the garden. No serious diseases are known to affect this healthy flowering herb. While the fresh flowers are very aromatic, they have a very bitter flavour because they contain a volatile oil, a bitter extractive and some tannic acid. This could explain why pests don’t find them all that attractive to munch on!”

“Chamomile also has a reputation for behaving like a nurse plant, helping to encourage other plants to increase their essential oil content and thus their flavour and aroma. Ailing plants seem to revive. It reportedly helps improve growth, resistance to pests and disease and increase harvests.”

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New Guide to Using Kitchen Herbs eBook

I have a lot of projects on the go each year. From speaking at events, presenting workshops, coaching local clients to grow their gardens, to writing, donating time in my community, growing food for my family and my online education work.

But this year, I finished a project I’m really proud of. It had been sitting there for a while as the ‘seed’ of an idea, but I needed a huge push to make it happen. The only way to do that is set a deadline. How do you make change in the world without setting a goal? Nothing like having a date to finish a book by to make you really focus!

My New Guide to Using Kitchen Herbs for Health eBook

It’s hard work. It takes dedication and very long hours. Planning, nurturing, thought and time. It’s like carrying a baby for months and putting huge effort into it, until finally it’s time to deliver and birth it into the world! A real labour of love.

So, I thought I’d take you behind the scenes a little, into my private world and why I wanted to write this new eBook and how it came about.

Growing up with Herbs

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12 Valuable Tips to Grow Healthy Microgreens

Do you want an abundant harvest of healthy microgreens? Whether you’re growing these nutrient-packed vegetables and herbs for your own health or to sell, these tips can help you succeed quickly.

12 Tips on How to Grow Healthy Microgreens

I’ve been growing microgreens for over 6 years and raised thousands of these tiny vegies and herbs in that time. Not only for our own use and good health, but also to share at public workshops and garden events to help inspire others.

I love these babies and have learned SO much about their needs. So, here are a few of my secrets to help you get a continuous abundance of healthy microgreens.

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Health Benefits of Eating and Growing Purple Foods

If you’re interested in good health, or are growing an edible garden, have you heard about how purple foods can benefit you? In this article, I share 50+ purple fruits and vegetables you can eat and grow, as well as their special protective health benefits, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Health Benefits of Eating and Growing Purple Foods

If you’re a food gardener, it’s likely you’re aware that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is healthy. It’s also one of the easiest ways to prevent disease. That’s why I’m growing my own healing, nutrient-dense food garden.

I’ve intentionally planted a rainbow of foods including those with purple pigments like eggplant, sweet potatoes and mulberries. Why? Because edibles with diverse colours and in different plant families each provide us with unique nutrients. Every food crop (vegetables, fruits and herbs) have different nutrients, so expanding the variety of colourful foods you eat can help boost health. More on that in a moment.

“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” – Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine

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Tour Through my 2017 Garden

Growing Food in a Challenging Climate

2017 was the worst and longest drought I have ever experienced. The growing conditions were the toughest I can ever remember. The rain just didn’t come for 7 long months. In fact, it was so bad in our local region, the Sunshine Coast of Australia, that thousands of people ran out of water for their homes and personal needs, let alone their gardens. Many had to get water and take showers in local parks. It was really, really dry.

As you’d expect, I had a few plant casualties. The grass was crispy. Sadly, an ornamental tree died and it wasn’t worth planting some of my favourite foods because the conditions were too unfavourable.

However, what delighted me was that through this entire time, my little kitchen garden kept feeding us. Not just now and then, but every day. Now you probably think I spent hours and hours every week out there planting and tending it. But nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve never had a busier year. Some weeks, I was lucky to spend an hour or two – and that was harvesting rather than planting or maintenance. Take a look at a few of the foods we enjoyed this year.

2017 tour and harvests from my garden | The Micro Gardener

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5 Simple Secrets to Building Healthy Soil

Why does soil health matter? Because if you want pest and disease-free plants that are nutrient-dense to nourish your health, you need healthy soil!

5 Simple Secrets to Building Healthy Soil

“Healthy soil has an ongoing capacity to function as a vibrant living ecosystem that can sustain plants, animals and people.” – Anne Gibson

Do YOU have Healthy Soil?

There are many factors that indicate soil health including:

  • a stable pH (not too acid or alkaline);
  • good soil structure;
  • ability to hold and release nutrients to plants;
  • level of organic matter; and
  • biodiversity of soil life.

A soil test kit will help you discover what your soil pH is. Picking up a handful of soil will allow you to get a feel for its structure and how ‘alive’ it is with worms and other tiny soil creatures.

Healthy soil does not look like dead dry lifeless dirt!

If your soil looks and feels like lifeless dry dirt, you may have a lot of work to do!

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